On Tuesday, May 3, Senate resolution S2423 was passed on a vote of 32-4 from the Rhode Island Senate chamber, after passing unanimously out of the Special Legislation & Veterans Affairs Committee last week. At the hearing on April 26, activists from around the state testified in support of the resolution, as did Dr. Ira Helfand, Steering Committee member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize recipient), and immediate past president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize recipient).
This legislative effort has been led by the Just Peace RI coalition, an organizing body representative of a number of peace, justice, and faith organizations from across the state, including Pax Christi RI, East Bay Citizens for Peace, Action Corps RI, No Endless War or Excessive Militarism, CodePink, War Watch, Sisters of Mercy Justice Team, Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, ANSWER Coalition, Rhode Island Anti-war Committee, Westerly area Peace and Justice, BLM RI PAC, and Prov DSA. An identical bill remains under consideration in the Rhode Island House.
The resolution was introduced by Senators Mack, Bell, Euer, Burke, Calkin, F Lombardi, Acosta, Anderson, Lawson, and Rogers, and it urges the federal government to pursue a broad range of measures to reduce the danger of nuclear war and to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The central tenet of the resolution is for the United States to pursue a verifiable agreement among all nine nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
Lead sponsor Tiara Mack said, “I am proud to stand with Peace activists who have worked for years to end US investment and potential use of nuclear war weapons. Physicians and health professionals know that a medical response to any use of nuclear weapons would be impossible. The only way to prevent devastating global impacts is to prevent nuclear weapons use.”
Senators Bell, Mendes, Anderson, and Raptakis all spoke from the floor their reasoning for their support of the Resolution before the successful vote.
From the coalition, a few members contributed these thoughts after the vote.
Terri Wright with DARE said, “War is not the answer, and killing everyone is not a solution! Ban Nuclear Weaponry!”
“This resolution (H#7518/S#2423) to reduce the danger of nuclear war gives hope for the future at a time when we most need it. As violence and greed threaten the existence of life on planet earth, we applaud the Rhode Island Senate for choosing the path toward peace.” Said Nancy Hood for East Bay Citizens for Peace
William W Smith III, from the coalition, who is also a small business owner and former American Peace Corps volunteer, shared that “Rhode Island now joins 4 other states, and many cities, in calling the government of the USA to join the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We cannot live with these weapons forever, so we must find a way to take them apart. What excitement there would be, worldwide, if the USA were to take the lead in these negotiations.”
The platform in S2423 was developed by the national Back from the Brink campaign, a grassroots coalition working toward a world free of nuclear weapons. California, Oregon, the New Jersey Assembly and the Maine Senate have adopted the resolution, as have over sixty municipalities including Boston, Des Moines, Honolulu, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Tucson, and Salt Lake City, as well as East Providence, Little Compton, and Jamestown here in Rhode Island.
This historic vote comes amid ongoing nuclear saber-rattling and escalating tensions between Russia and the United States and NATO. Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons and placed his nuclear forces on high alert for the first time since the end of the Cold War. The world faces the real threat of nuclear war and the potentially existential consequences that such a war would pose.
These are the most dangerous weapons on the planet. The Rhode Island Senate displayed genuine leadership, took the historic opportunity to pass Senate Resolution S2423, and added its voice in favor of the TPNW treaty. US acceptance of this treaty could lead the world on a new path toward global security that does not rely on weapons of mass destruction that threaten the very survival of our species.